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golf and health

‘Golf was a game changer – a gateway to a better version of myself’

Sky Sports Golf presenter Iona Stephen has been finding out just what golf can do for our health and, she tells Steve Carroll, the impact the sport has had on her life
 

Iona Investigates. It’s got a catchy ring to it but the subject matter of the three-part documentary Iona Stephen is presenting on YouTube is anything but trivial.

The R&A series looks at golf and health – concentrating on the physical and mental health benefits playing the game can bring.

Iona interviews leading experts, sportspeople, and everyday golfers to find out what golf means to them and shares her own story of how the sport inspired her.

Speaking about the series on the From the Clubhouse podcast, Iona, who began playing golf seriously when at university, said: “It has absolutely transformed my life from a personal and professional point of view.

“The second facet of it was really traying to uncover and share the story of just how powerful golf can be in a positive health perspective for people who choose to play it.

“We spoke to some real-life case studies, and we also spoke to professionals and experts, who were able to cut to the nuts and bolts of just how significant some of the findings are around the positive impact that golf can have on your physical health, your mental health, your social life and so many other things as well.

“It was a good reminder of just why I love this game and it was a very beautiful reflective experience for me as well. It was just fabulous to be a part of it.”

The first episode sees Iona recount her first major experience of golf club membership – at Ranfurly Castle near Glasgow – and how being part of the club helped ease the pressures of working out what she wanted to do with her life.

“I didn’t really recognise it at the time, but I definitely had sort of different kinds of anxiety that I was dealing with,” she added.

“I played field hockey internationally and that was a great outlet for me, but it was during that time at university that I discovered golf.

“I can only really describe it as just transformational – in terms of my mental health and the weight it took off my shoulders, to just feel like I found a sanctuary for myself in life where nobody asked me any questions. I didn’t have to be anyone or be anything.

“I could just go to the golf course. Leave my phone in the car and be out there for four hours with total peace and quiet.”

Iona continued: “It was a game changer for me and my whole life. It was a gateway to a better version of myself.”

Listen to Iona Stephens on the From the Clubhouse podcast

Steve is joined by Iona, former England cricketer James Taylor, who talks about how he turned to golf after a cardiac event ended his international career, and R&A chief development officer Phil Anderson explains how the governing body is galvanising partners around the golf and health message.

You can watch Iona Investigates on the R&A’s YouTube channel.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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